Awards Radar got the opportunity to chat with Jaime Reynoso, the cinematographer for Netflix’s The Kominsky Method who recently was nominated for an ASC award for his work on the show. Jaime worked on the final season of the series and was able to bring a new perspective to the cinematography.
The Emmy-Award-winning series follows an aging actor, played by Michael Douglas, who is making his living as an acting coach in his later years.
In this interview, Jaime dives into the cinematography of the show, working with the likes of Chuck Lorre, his ASC nomination and what’s next for him.
Well, first of all, I want to say congratulations on your ASC Nomination. How does it feel to be recognized for your work?
Thank you. I’ve stopped worrying about recognition a bit over a decade ago. Seriously, I realized what I liked wasn’t popular and I understood the value in that. For a long time, I would hear, “they thought your stuff was too dark… too dramatic.” Initially, it bummed me out, but I came to understand that it meant I wasn’t right for those projects. It is undeniably satisfying to be nominated by your peers, by the specialists that can pick up on the smallest of details. The ASC includes some of the best sets of eyes in the world. Being taken into consideration by them is invaluable.
How did you first get started as a cinematographer?
In my early stages of education at a progressive school, my teacher looked beyond my difficulty in reading by noticing my ease in expressing myself through drawing. Instead of forcing me to keep up with the herd, she would ask me to draw what the rest of the kids were writing about. I drew intensively throughout my childhood until, as a teen, I discovered the B&W photo lab. Upon graduation, at 19 years of age, formally studying still photography and officially a film buff, a classmate asked me, “you like cinema don’t you?” Her boyfriend was in the camera team of, Like Water for Chocolate, and they were on the hunt for a young fellow to help with the director’s monitor. Before my first day working with them was over, I knew I belonged in the film circus. There was a young cameraman on that film, he was already a bit of a legend, his work was utterly inspiring.
Now let’s get into one of your most recent projects, The Kominsky Method. It’s very interesting how you balanced the comedic side with the more dramatic side of the show. Are there challenges to doing that as a cinematographer?
The Kominsky method is a very intelligent series. It’s not just its genre, it’s not just its plot; it is the journey of its characters. The photography is responsible for luring the audience into the emotional journey that the characters are going through. And I tried to tune into it that.
The Kominsky Method has won a Golden Globe and American film Institute award, can you tell me about your process from reading the script to the production of it and how you filmed everything for such a successful series?
I joined the project for its third season. The first step was talking to the series line producer, Marlis Pujol, who thought I’d be the right fit for the project and graciously brought me on board. After reading and reviewing the previous seasons I had a great phone conversation with Anette Haellmigk, who’d shot the previous two seasons, in which she was incredibly generous and encouraging. This was my first pandemic job so everything was new. Zoom meetings are now pretty standard but then we hadn’t really gotten the hang of it. Also, we needed to try and shoot most everything within the studio’s lot to reduce contagion risks. That was incredibly challenging as the driving scenes were all done with rear projection. The minutia of the filming was as it always is, try to come up with the most interesting angles that tell the story without calling attention to themselves but feel special, not like other shots I’ve seen or made. I was fortunate to have a great team, some of whom did the previous seasons with Anette.
What was your favorite scene or aspect of the series to shoot?
Amongst what I remember more dearly was the segment in which Sandy is shooting Old Man and the Sea with Barry Levinson. There was a water tank, huge green screens, Ritter fans, lighting cranes and all the film paraphernalia big movie lighting setups show in cinematography magazines. I had always looked at those huge setups with certain dread in terms of having to conceal all that equipment, except this time there was no need to hide them as they were there as set dressing, It was a lot of fun.
However, one of the most meaningful moments in the series was when Sandy finally sees his film on a billboard on Sunset Blvd. That moment tells the story of us all. Filmmakers, we’re aspiring artists, aren’t we? And there I was shooting Michael Douglas playing Sandy Kominsky, looking at his own billboard… You know, the whole homecoming thing… The filming of that scene was very moving…
What was it like working with Chuck Lorre, Andy Tennant and Beth McCarthy-Miller to bring their and your vision to life?
It was delightful to collaborate with them and the whole team… Chuck is a very smart and experienced writer/producer who as a director is very clear in what’s he’s looking for. Beth and Andy had done the previous two seasons and were very kind and collaborative.
Again the show was one of the firsts after production resumed after lockdown, I think we’d all been in the house for so long everyone was extremely eager to get to work and see people. Despite all the COVID protocols, and believe me, there were many, It was a very pleasant experience, suspiciously smooth even.
What was the most important element for you that you wanted to achieve visually, in order for The Kominsky Method to be a memorable cinematic experience for the viewer to say, “Wow! I really liked the cinematography and the way it looked”?
I don’t think the filmmaking process should be like that at all. Cinema is an art form and its photography should never be regarded as an instrument of flash. The point is precisely the opposite, to be as expressive as possible with the cinematography but not to ever protrude. Never should it stand in the way of the performances which are the main dish. Cinematography, along with editing, music, decor, the wardrobe and the makeup and other components of the image, provides the atmosphere the characters inhabit, the taste and smell as they move through the story. The question I ask myself as a cinematographer is what the smell and taste of that world is upon reading the text.
And lastly, coming off this ASC Nomination, where do you see yourself headed next?
I’m about to start a really promising project, set in Nazi-occupied Paris. I was already slated to shoot it before the fantastic news of the nomination came. My gaze is on making this show as good as I possibly can.